Augustan Poetry : characteristics

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      Johnson and Goldsmith were strong conservatives in literary theory. They were equally convinced that the writers of the Augustan age provided the true standard for future imitation. For them Pope was the limit of classic English literature. Johnson's London and The Vanity of Human Wishes belong entirely to the preceding generation in their didacticism, their formal oratorical style and their adherence to the closed couplet. The same may be said of Goldsmith's two important poems, The Traveller and The Deserted Village. They are often marred by pompous phraseology.

The growth of a love of Nature and of a feeling for the picturesque is one of tho most marked and interesting general features in the history of English poetry between Pope and Wordsworth.
Augustan poetry

      But there is also a tender feeling pervading the two poems of Goldsmith. The treatment of Nature and rural life has also to be noted. Though his landscape and his peasants are rather conventional, these descriptions have none the less and unmistakably personal quality. It is clear that conservative as Goldsmith was, he yielded more than he realised to the influences at work about him. As for Johnson though he was incomparably the strongest individual force in the literary world of his time, he was still unable to check the encroachments of the new spirit.

      The reaction in form manifested itself in the abandonment of Popian couplets, for, experiments in other kinds of verse were prompted by natural impatience of a single, monotonous form and by growing admiration of Milton. The first important piece of eighteenth century blank verse, Thomson's Sensons was obviously fashioned on Milton's. Other examples are Somerville's The Chase, Young's Night Thoughts and Blair's The Grave.

      An equal interest in what is known as the Spenserian Revival began with a number of attempts to reproduce the Spenserian stanza. The School Mistress of William Shenstone, Thomson's Castle of Indolence which adopts much of the Gothic machinery of The Faerie Queene are some of the conspicuous examples where penserian style has been adopted.

      The growth of a love of Nature and of a feeling for the picturesque is one of tho most marked and interesting general features in the history of English poetry between Pope and Wordsworth. The Muse of the Augustan era loved best to frequent the coffee houses and the drawing rooms: solitude she despised; if once in she wandered out into the country, it was seldom farther than Richmond Hill and Windsor Forest. It was in the writings of Alam Ramsay that the reviving love of Nature first became increasingly prominent in English poetry. It was found in the works of William Collins, William Blake, Thomas Gray, Robert Burns and William Cowper collectively they known as Precursor of Romanticism.

      The development of naturalism was another feature which manifested itself in the poetry of the eighteenth century that grew as a reaction against Augustan tradition. It meant the beginning of poetry of Nature and reality, This resulted in poetry in the quest for more elementary things, for simplicity in the subject matter chosen and in the language used. William Blake's Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience anticipate the romantic poetry in its love of the country, of simple life of childhood and home. George Crabb's The Village, The Newspaper and Tales in Verse are important because of their uncompromising realism. His plain and realistic handling of materials taken from actual life and his total repudiation of all pastoral conventions give him special importance in the naturalistic reaction against the Augustan tradition.

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